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A Lady by Midnight (Tessa Dare, Spindle Cove #3)

3.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
A very nice example of the we’ve-kind-of-known-each-other stories that Dare seems to like: we have an orphan who’s desperate to know about her past and a soldier who’s obviously had a ridiculously tough life up until now. It’s a twist on the friends-before-lovers trope, with just a hint of mystery and intrigue. In this case, he’s the one who protected her, and now lusts after her… but of course, he thinks he’s generally incapable of love, and, more specifically, undeserving of hers. There are phrases and words that don’t feel quite regency-era, and the ending dragged a little, and became a little overly melodramatic. Still, the characterizations and emotional journeys of the characters are well-done and, at times, riveting. It’s a solid addition to the series, very much in Dare’s usual style.

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Three Nights with a Scoundrel (Tessa Dare, Stud Club #3)

2 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
An intriguing heroine (who has been deaf for almost a decade now due to a fever), a murder mystery, and some last minute plot twists can’t save this romance from its one irredeemable feature — a truly punch-worthy leading man. He has built a reputation upon being a mimic, has been in love with his (now dead) best friend’s younger sister for years, is obsessed with solving his friend’s murder, and is just infuriatingly, unbearably arrogant.  Since the first novel in this series he has made wild accusations, lashed out at others and himself in his guilt, never apologizing, and up through almost the last pages, is still presuming he knows better (and thus deserves to make the decisions for his lady love). I might have been better able to engage if I weren’t so busy wishing I could strangle the hero for so much of the novel.
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A Lady of Persuasion (Tessa Dare, Wanton Dairymaids #3)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
I may be in the minority here, but this was actually my favorite in the series — I still think there are a few too many small plot twists (that don’t always make sense and/or go a little overboard in their attempt to be dramatic), but overall, though the pacing was a little slower, the character development was rich and believable.  Our hero is a ne’er-do-well who is is humorous, intelligent, and happy to lead a simple life focusing more on his own pleasure than concern for others. Our heroine has led an overly sheltered life and wants to marry solely to gain position and authority so that she will be able to affect social change and do lots and lots of charity.  Both characters could easily have been caricatures (and our hero is often drawn as such in the local newspaper), but their love story is surprisingly believable and compelling — there are some excellent side stories and characters.
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Twice Tempted by a Rogue (Tessa Dare, Stud Club #2)

3 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
The writing is crisp, clean and fluid, and the plot is quick and diverting — in many ways, this is an enjoyable read. I particularly like the female protagonist, who is a fully independent, sexually confident widow used to caring for her inn, her maimed father, and half the village. On the other hand, our hero isn’t just the tortured man full of angst, he’s had a full-on death wish for more than a decade. We start the novel after he’s discovered a newfound lease on life (or just that he’s given up passive suicidal ideation) and we don’t get the reason behind his death-wish for more than two-thirds of the novel (though it’s one of the easier plot points to guess, it was a little annoying to be purposefully in the dark while he brooded). Though there are references to how our protagonists knew one another when they were adolescents, most of the in-story development relies more on heady physical attraction, which isn’t my favorite… There’s also continual references to a murder that happened in One Dance with a Duke that feel very out of place — all of this adds up to this being a recommended, but fairly forgettable read, made up of nearly equal parts enjoyable and annoying.

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Surrender of a Siren (Tessa Dare, Wanton Dairymaids #2)

3 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
I had three problems with this book: it starts off too slowly (in terms of character development and explanations), it’s on a boat (pirates and that subgenre of historical romance is not something I’m a big fan of), and it’s not quite as charming as the first in the series. On the other hand, we’ve got an interesting cast of characters: from a young farm boy on his first sea voyage to the hero’s half-brother, whose mother was a plantation slave, balanced by some very sensual scenes and protagonists who, though immediately drawn to one another physically, do end up taking their time, revealing themselves, and getting to know one another.  It’s fun and lighthearted without being particularly memorable (or my cup of tea).

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One Dance with a Duke (Tessa Dare, Stud Club #1)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
She’s the supposedly overlooked, almost matronly, spinster who loves nothing better than to embroider and plan menus; he’s the irresistibly mysterious duke who rarely shows his face in society.  It’s that unlikely combination of rake and wallflower that shows up a little too often in regency romance.  Add in a dash of murder and an obsession with horseflesh that is probably believable for the time period but not at all my thing, and I didn’t really expect to like this book. Except it’s actually fun, interesting, and well written. Dare is great at miring the readers in scenes that are long enough to really see character motivations and growth arcs, and though they still occasionally surrender to stereotypes and misunderstandings, overall, this is a sweetly sensual, often humorous romance whose characters take deft, surprising turns just as you’re about to lose faith in them…
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Goddess of the Hunt (Tessa Dare, Wanton Dairymaids #1)

3.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This felt like exactly what it is: a beginning work from a very promising author.  There are interesting characters and passionate sex scenes, but all of the writing and characterization ultimately feels like it could, and should, be more fleshed out.  You’ve got a strong-willed, independent tomboy of a heroine – a woman who rides and fishes with the best of them (and has a hearty appetite to boot).  She’s fun and easy to relate to; the fact that she’s out to seduce her brother’s friend is a nice opening premise.  BUT… this is one of those novels where they fall in love/consummate their relationship almost too quickly, and the second half of the novel is dense with misrepresentations and misunderstandings, where everyone means well, but keeps saying and doing the worst possible thing and hurting each other’s feelings.  Though it’s well written and worth the read, there are many times when it’s just as frustrating as it is good…
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